Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures during a
debate in the upper house of parliament in Rome earlier
this month. Photo: REUTERS/Max Rossi
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faced growing
pressure on Sunday to resign after embarrassing new revelations
of parties and young women prompted questions about his ability
to govern a country rocked by financial crisis.
Italian newspapers in recent days have replaced front page
headlines on soaring bond yields and sliding shares with
wiretapped chats between Berlusconi and Giampaolo Tarantini,
a businessman suspected of providing prostitutes for the
In one excerpt published by the Corriere della Sera daily,
Berlusconi boasts of champagne-filled partying till 6:30 am
at a Milan nightclub and pocketing eight phone numbers of
women. He also brags of fending off a line of 11 girls
outside his door and "doing only eight girls, because I
couldn't do more".
"If you have a girl -- two girls, three girls -- to bring,"
Berlusconi is quoted as asking the southern businessman ahead
of their next encounter, "please don't get tall ones ...
because we are not tall."
In another excerpt reported by major dailies, Berlusconi says
"Gianpi" and his female friends could come along on the
premier's flight to Milan. Yet another has him joking to a
young woman that he is premier in his "spare time".
Opposition parties stepped up calls for Berlusconi to resign
after the latest disclosures, saying a country immersed in a
debt crisis that threatens the entire euro zone could not
afford a premier who governs in his spare time.
"Is there a single reason comprehensible to the world on why
Berlusconi should not resign?" Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of
the centre-left Democratic Party said.
Berlusconi loyalists, however, rallied to defend the premier
and said he would not bow to demands to step aside.
"Berlusconi does not have any desire to resign," said
Angelino Alfano, secretary of Berlusconi's People of Freedom
Berlusconi has kept up a defiant attitude through various
scandals, blaming his old foes -- "Communist" magistrates and
a "leftist" press -- for hounding him mercilessly.
The media mogul maintains his private parties were elegant,
convivial affairs and his lawyer says the premier was unaware
of any links between Tarantini and prostitution.
Tarantini was arrested with his wife earlier this month on
suspicion of extorting money from Berlusconi in return for
his silence over the prostitution allegations.
He is also suspected of procuring women for Berlusconi in a
bid to curry political favours and win contracts, including
some with Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica.
Finmeccanica has not been charged with wrongdoing and says it
has never given contracts to Tarantini or to another
businessman who was also named in the wiretaps. Two
executives at the firm resigned last week after their names
cropped up in published excerpts of wiretaps from judicial
The latest disclosures form an ever-more complicated web of
scandal and legal headaches around the beleaguered premier,
who has hung on despite a barrage of lurid scandals over the
His wife has sought divorce after accusing him of cavorting
with minors, while the infamous "Rubygate" affair has seen
him accused of paying for sex with a teenage prostitute.
Revelations of "bunga bunga" parties with escorts and
showgirls angling for jobs in his media empire have prompted
incredulity and sniggers, but failed to push him out of
Still, the latest disclosures come at a sensitive time for
the premier, who is grappling with slumping ratings,
frustrated allies, a financial storm that has driven up
Italy's borrowing costs and an unpopular austerity package.
Adding to the confusion, Berlusconi's volatile ally Umberto
Bossi on Sunday reiterated a call for the secession of
Italy's rich north at a speech to his Northern League party
Faced with the League's sliding popularity among voters in
its northern home base, Bossi has stepped up his familiar
rhetoric of a hard-working north paying for a profligate
south and expressed doubts about the government seeing out
Still, he has so far remained loyal to Berlusconi in
parliament, ensuring the media mogul stays in power.